Japanese Home Cooking Class in Tokyo. YUCa's Food & Lifestyle Media from Japan

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School Lunches In Japan

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In Japan, school lunches are provided at some kindergartens and almost all nursery schools, elementary schools, and junior high schools.

Both my daughter, who currently attends nursery school, and my son, who attends elementary school, receive school lunches every day.

At my son’s kindergarten, he brought his own spoon & fork and chopsticks, but at my daughter’s nursery school and my son’s elementary school prepare for them. In my son’s case, he now brings his own luncheon mat every day. In addition to this, during the week when he is on school lunch duty, he brings a laundered apron, a triangular hood and a mask every day.

A Japanese school lunch consists of milk, soup, carbohydrate (rice, noodles, bread), main dish, side dish, and fruit.

School lunch menus are prepared by a dietitian, taking into consideration event meals and seasonal ingredients. The menus are then distributed to all students approximately two weeks in advance. The menu list at my son’s elementary school includes a note for each day, which includes information about the producer, ingredients, and trivia about the menu.

At the daycare center where I worked, we also had a 10:00 a.m. snack, so four to five people started cooking at 8:00 a.m. and made snacks & school lunches for about 200 students in less than three hours.

Some of the children needed to eliminate certain foods due to allergies or religious reasons, so I prepared separate school lunches with different cooking methods and ingredients for a few of them. And every day, without fail, the principal tasted and checked the food.

At lunch time, the students would turn their desks around and divide into several groups. (Currently at Corona Disaster, everyone seems to eat facing forward.) 


Students on lunch duty serve the food assigned to them. Students who are not on lunch duty line up in single file and place one dish on each of their trays. 

When lunch duty is over and everyone is seated, they greet each other with “Itadakimasu!” and begin to eat their lunch in unison. The teacher joins the students and eats with them. If there is leftover food, the children who want to eat it play rock-paper-scissors to get it. When they are done eating, the lunch duty person takes the dishes and leftovers to a designated area. After lunch and after school, the whole class cleans up the classroom. This sequence of events is what I consider “Japanese school lunch”.

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